If residents of Old Fallston Road get their way, they'll have a barricade blocking entrance to their street from Route 152 and reclaim their neighborhood, which they say has been overrun by speeding cars and school buses.
"All we want is a nice quiet residential street with no traffic coming down here," said Louis Sagi, one of the residents trying to get the county to build a cul-de-sac at the end of Old Fallston Road. "Our quality of life is being affected."
But a fire chief and several residents opposed to the plan say closing the road could jeopardize public safety because it would take area volunteer fire fighters longer to reach the station if they're forced to take a different route. It also could create difficulty for emergency vehicles trying to turn around.
The stretch of Old Fallston Road covers one-tenth of a mile and connects Route 152 with Carrs Mill Road, where Fallston High School sits.
"Closing the road will definitely slow the response time of volunteers trying to get to the station house," said William Reinecke, the Fallston Volunteer Fire Department chief. And, he argued, closing the road would create more traffic at the Route 152-Carrs Mill Road intersection and increase the number of accidents because more people would try to beat red lights.
A final decision is up to the County Council, which has scheduled a public hearing for 6:30 p.m. Sept. 8 in the council chambers of the County Courthouse on Main Street in Bel Air.
It's not the first time the residents have tried to get the road closed. Mr. Sagi, who has lived on the street nearly 40 years, led a similar fight several years ago, but succeeded only in getting the county to make the street one-way, with the entrance from Route 152.
Now, the county supports closing the road by building a temporary T-shaped turnaround at Old Fallston Road and Route 152, and making Carrs Mill Road the main entrance. A permanent cul-de-sac would be built later.
"The decision is one of the quality of life of the residents of Old Fallston Road," said William T. Baker Jr., director of the county's Department of Public Works. "There is no justifiable traffic reason to keep the road open. It's just a cut-through."
The shortcut is used by an average of 1,165 cars a day, according to a county traffic study done in February, when school was still in session. If the intersection is closed, the state has agreed to alter the timing of the light at Carrs Mill Road and Route 152 to improve traffic flow.
The official numbers for the amount of traffic using the shortcut came as no surprise to Old Fallston Road residents like Edward Cooper, a member of the Fallston Volunteer Fire Department who supports the closing. "I just told them this is my family, and it's just safety and common sense," said Mr. Cooper, showing a visitor the critical intersection. "It gets really crazy during rush hour."
Few cars traveled the road at 10:30 Friday morning, but Mr. Cooper reacted instinctively every time he heard one approach, reaching to pull his two children, ages 4 and 6, farther and farther from the edge of the road. The cars that did pass, mostly driven by teens, traveled over the posted 25 mph speed limit.
Although sympathetic to the residents' plight, Mr. Reinecke said he remains "adamantly opposed" to the road closing.
He had suggested limiting local traffic on Old Fallston Road, posting a "No Thru Traffic" sign and allowing only the fire department and residents to use the road.